Spectacular Seychelles' footballing passion
The Global Game series shines a light on football in Seychelles
With fewer than 100,000 inhabitants, it is the smallest sovereign nation in Africa
Seychelles’ passion for football is as great as anywhere
Although all eyes were on Lisbon last weekend for the UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, another match was being played at the same time on an archipelago off the west coast of Africa that was every bit as passionate.
In the much-anticipated final of the Seychelles Cup, Foresters FC, who had won their first championship just a few days earlier, faced the outgoing champion Cote d'Or FC on 22 August. And the game lived up to expectations, with the Foresters triumphing 4-2 after coming from behind.
Did you know...?
Created in 1979, the Seychelles Championship is the country’s top division and features ten clubs. The archipelago also has a second and third division, consisting of eight and ten clubs respectively. The most successful side in Seychelles are Saint Louis FC (14 titles).
"We’ve done the double! It's historic, it's great! We’re all the more proud given how long and complicated the season has been with the Coronavirus. It was interrupted for all of four months," Jean Tigana Hajatiana, the Foresters’ Malagasy captain told FIFA.com.
"Unfortunately, we weren’t able to celebrate these titles properly with our supporters because of the virus. But, at least, we were able to bring them some joy!"
Despite being in the middle of the Indian ocean at the far end of the globe and seemingly cut off from the rest of the world, Seychelles has been affected by Covid-19 just like everywhere else. But what the islanders also have in common with the rest of the world is a love for the beautiful game.
"I know how passionate people are about the game in Europe, but football is also very popular here" insisted Tigana. "There’s also volleyball, and swimming of course. Sports that we naturally like to practice at the beach!"
Did you know…?
A Seychelles native has actually participated in a FIFA World Cup™... The person in question is Eddy Maillet, who refereed several matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
It is impossible to talk about Seychelles without discussing its beaches. Mention these islands to almost anyone, and images of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters immediately spring to mind. This archipelago of 155 islands, located in the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar and south-east of the Maldives, is an authentic paradise.
"The beaches have a reputation for being the most beautiful in the world. I know those of Madagascar well, and they’re magnificent. But I have to admit that, in this respect, Seychelles surpasses even those," said the two-time Malagasy international. "That said, Madagascar is better at football!"
It is undeniable that the Pirates have not enjoyed the same success as their southern neighbour. While Madagascar are still in contention in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Qatar 2022 after participating in the last CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Seychelles, by contrast, have a virtually blank C.V. The country’s sole title came at the 2011 Indian Ocean Islands Games following successes against Mauritius, Maldives and Reunion.
Did you know...?
Seychelles drew their first-ever FIFA World Cup qualifier in the Preliminary Competition for Korea/Japan 2002. They also drew their opening qualifying game four years later, against Zambia, but are still chasing their first win in the competition.
"I've been here for ten years, and I can assure you that there’s no shortage of talent among the Seychellois. What’s lacking here is infrastructure, training and equipment," lamented Tigana. The consequences of this have been keenly felt by the national team, who currently occupy 202nd place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and were eliminated from the qualifying races for Qatar 2022 (beaten 10-0 on aggregate by Rwanda) and for the Africa Cup 2021 (beaten 3-1 on aggregate by South Sudan).
However, not even those setbacks can diminish the love the Seychellois people have for the beautiful game!
This article is part of the 'Global Game' series, which focuses on football in remote places away from the spotlight.